How does recent NFC South quarterback news impact the Panthers?

(Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports) Drew Brees and Tom Brady
(Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports) Drew Brees and Tom Brady /

What is the Carolina Panthers’ window of contention with the retirement of Drew Brees and the extension of Tom Brady?

The long-expected but never confirmed news of Drew Brees‘s retirement has finally been announced and comes with it the end of a career of tormenting the Carolina Panthers two times a year. This wasn’t the only bit of NFC South news in recent days, with Tom Brady penning a four-year contract extension with the reigning champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

With the balance of power clearly beginning to shift in the division, where does that leave the Panthers?

After the departure of Brees to the greener pasture of retirement and a TV deal with NBC, the New Orleans Saints are left with a hole at quarterback with no clear plan as to who will pick up the torch this offseason. With that will come uncertainty and perhaps some key departures if the organization loses faith in who they have around and signal a full rebuild.

The Saints currently have Taysom Hill, who just restructured his contract to save some money in this cash-strapped offseason. After being signed off waivers from the Green Bay Packers, he has been more of a gadget player than a true backup for Brees.

As shown by the fact they brought in Teddy Bridgewater and then Jameis Winston after the former Louisville standout left for the Panthers.

Until Brees went down with various injuries last season, Hill had only attempted a total of 15 NFL passes. While he did have a good showing last year, going 3-1, those wins and that loss should all have an asterisk. His three victories came against the Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos who combined for nine total wins.

The Broncos win was more so in spite of Hill’s quarterback performance, and the fact that the opposing quarterback was a practice squad wide receiver definitely helped matters.

The first of two wins against the Falcons was almost a loss because of an untimely fumble and an inability to convert on third downs to run out the clock. In the second victory, he was bailed out by two interceptions from Matt Ryan on the other side of the field, one in the end-zone and the other coming after a fumble in the red-zone.

Hill’s lone loss came at the hands of a 4-11 Philadelphia Eagles squad, in a game where he had less than 100 passing yards, zero touchdowns, and an interception on a play where he failed to recognize the coming blitz and threw an off-target pass.

The other likely option for the Saints is free agent Winston, a player they brought in last year with high upside but glaring shortcomings. This is shown by the fact that with their apparent faith in the former Pro Bowler, they only attempted 11 passes all season.

Winston signed with the Saints after a year in which they threw 33 touchdowns and an unbelievable 30 interceptions. Sure, the former Buccaneer put up ridiculous yardage numbers during their first five seasons but those interceptions should give anyone pause, especially coming after Brees who was praised for his ability to protect the football.

He must have shown the coaching staff something due to the one-year extension Winston received on the first day of the official legal tampering period, so it would be a big shock if he wasn’t under center when the 2021 season gets underway.

Carolina Panthers could move closer to a divisional title.

Consistency is the name of the game here and whichever way they go, or if they draft a project, look for the Saints to take a step back this year and allow the Panthers to inch ever closer to an NFC South crown.

On the other side of things, Brady just led the Buccaneers to a dominant Super Bowl win over the Kansas City Chiefs and is looking for more. A team that shows just how important a quarterback can be. Going from a disappointing 7-9 to champs in just one offseason.

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However, Brady is no spring chicken and should be hitting the wall soon, either by injury or decline. Remember there was talk of him hanging it up after his last few seasons in New England didn’t exactly go as planned.

This Tampa team is built around just a few runs and doesn’t necessarily have any plan at all for beyond that at this point. So if Brady hits his wall soon, they’ll be in the same boat as the Falcons and Saints both likely will, rebuilding at quarterback.

And as for the Falcons, they are a team that finds a way to self-destruct ever since that infamous Super Bowl defeat at the hands of the Patriots.

With the firing of longtime coach Dan Quinn and the regression of Matt Ryan, the Falcons need to start planning for the future and likely will with the fourth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

But with a new coach and general manager to go along with some intriguing young players, the Falcons just may rebound from what was a frustrating season. And if they do, it could spell trouble for the rest of the division.

Where do the Carolina Panthers stand?

With all that said, what is the Panthers’ ceiling? While not really postseason contenders yet,  that could all change with one trade to lure Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans. The team could easily compete for a wild card spot in what is a weak NFC and sneak into a division title should the cards fall just right.

Imagine what going 8-0 on game-winning or tying drives would’ve done last season.

The Panthers also have a head start on the rest of the division in the race to rebuild with a solid young core that with time could bring them a championship. Patience is the word of the day for this team. Let the young guys have time to develop and maybe look to steal a title this season.

Just don’t be looking for rings just yet.

In a division of “out with the old and in with the new”, Carolina has the new and can only go up from here as the rest start back from the bottom in the near future. The team is trending in the right direction and we can only hope that continues under another year of Matt Rhule.